What the Hell Happened to Eddie Murphy?

eddie murphy

Eddie Murphy

By this point in the “What the Hell Happened?” series, a pattern has developed.  The career usually begins with TV roles or modeling gigs.  Then a big break, super stardom and a stint on the A-list.

Sometimes the celebrity rides on the top of the a-list for years.  Other times, they come crashing down relatively quickly.  Eventually, their time in the spotlight ends.  Sometimes they flame out in a spectacularly public fashion.  Other times, they just walk away.

Eddie Murphy’s story breaks from the formula.  Sure, there is a rise and fall.  But in Murphy’s case, there’s not just one.

Murphy rose to superstardom, slipped into irrelevance, reinvented himself as a family friendly leading man, had a scandal, dropped into obscurity, and then threatened to stage a come back multiple times without ever actually coming back.

Murphy - SNL

Eddie Murphy – Saturday Night Live – 1980 – 1984

Murphy started performing as a stand-up comedian as a teenager.  In 1980, at the age of 19, Murphy joined the cast of Saturday Night Live.  At the time, he was the youngest cast member in the history of the show.

In the early 80s, SNL was in its first real slump.  It was actually facing the possibility of cancellation.  Murphy and co-star Joe Piscopo were the sole stand-outs of the cast and arguably saved the show.  Murphy became the show’s clear star with characters like Buckwheat, Gumby and Mr. Robinson.  He also did a killer Stevie Wonder impression.

Murphy also has the distinction of being the only cast member to host the show while he was still a regular cast member.  Murphy remained on SNL until 1984.  Once he left, he would not return for over three decades.  According to Murphy:

“They were shitty to me on Saturday Night Live a couple of times after I’d left the show. They said some shitty things. There was that David Spade sketch [when Spade showed a picture of Murphy around the time of Vampire in Brooklyn and said, “Look, children, a falling star”]. I made a stink about it, it became part of the folklore. What really irritated me about it at the time was that it was a career shot. It was like, “Hey, come on, man, it’s one thing for you guys to do a joke about some movie of mine, but my career? I’m one of you guys. How many people have come off this show whose careers really are fucked up, and you guys are shitting on me?” And you know every joke has to go through all the producers, and ultimately, you know Lorne or whoever says, [Lorne Michaels voice] “OK, it’s OK to make this career crack…”

Eddie Murphy - 48 Hours - 1982

Eddie Murphy – 48 Hours – 1982

While Murphy was still on SNL, he made his feature film debut in 1982’s 48 Hours.

I don’t think the impact of 48 Hours can be over-stated.  It wasn’t just a smash hit.  It practically invented a genre that would dominate the film landscape for the next decade.  The buddy cop movie began with Nolte and Murphy in 48 Hours.

Murphy commented on why the movie – in which Nolte’s character says some very politically incorrect racial slurs – worked:

You know why it worked then and the reason why it wouldn’t now? My significance in film – and again I’m not going to be delusional – was that I’m the first black actor to take charge in a white world onscreen. That’s why I became as popular as I became. People had never seen that before. Black-exploitation movies, even if you dealt with the Man, it was in your neighborhood, never in their world. In 48 Hours, that’s why it worked, because I’m running it, making the story go forward. If I was just chained to the steering wheel sitting there being called “watermelon,” even back then they would have been like, “This is wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong!”

Nolte was supposed to host SNL when the movie opened.  But he partied a little too hard and had to cancel.  Instead, Murphy – still a cast member on the show – took over the hosting duties.

Murphy was already a star thanks to SNL.  But 48 Hours made him a movie star.  Murphy was nominated for a Golden Globe for New Star of the Year.  He lost to Ben Kingsley for Ghandi.

murphy - trading places

Eddie Murphy – Trading Places – 1983

The following year, Murphy teamed with SNL alumn Dan Aykroyd in Trading Places.

Murphy played a poor conman who trades places with a rich Wall Street trader played by Aykroyd.  Jamie Lee Curtis played a hooker with a heart of gold who helps Aykroyd deal with his new status quo.

Trading Places was directed by John Landis who would work with Murphy two more times.  The rich man/poor man comedy was an even greater hit than 48 Hours.  Murphy was nominated for another Golden Globe.

Eddie Murphy - Delirious - 1983

Eddie Murphy – Delirious – 1983

Murphy was 2 for 2 in Hollywood and was still a star on TV.  He was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Comedy or Musical for Trading Places.  Plus he had a hit stand-up comedy special in Eddie Murphy: Delirious that same year.

Murphy’s career was hot.  He wasn’t just a rising star.  He was shooting straight to the top.

Next: Beverly Hills Cop and The Golden Child

Posted on January 31, 2012, in Movies, Saturday Night Live, TV, What the Hell Happened?, WTHH Actor and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 339 Comments.

  1. Sometimes those documentary edit things to make a person look bad because scandals like that attract viewers .


  2. You said you suspect hes scary man well you dont know what hes really like you don’t know him. People thought Tiger Woods was this great family man because media sold him that way yet we know how that ended.


  3. I think sheen has major problems . Cruise has never physically harmed anyone. He never had any huge scandals that ended up being true . You are entitled to your opinion . But dont take every headline with a grain of salt. For actor whos father beat him and who had fame pretty young age 20 he carried himself pretty well.


  4. Even if you think hes nuts that does not take away from the fact hes a nice guy. I dont see him being scare y outside of work i see him being a free spirit


  5. you have no evidence of that. I love your blogs dont mean to be jerk but you pick on cruise more then mel and hes a bigot .Peyton (her username) who posted in your blogs agree you tend to attack cruise for nothing. Here is her quote she tried putting on but you dont let her commonets on lebeau judgmental and said cruise had never done anything wrong, that he’s making him out to be a psycho. what on earth does he mean an act for other scientologists? like they’re helpless victims who have been manipulated by him? did u see the comment where lebeau called him downright evil? Your stuff is interesting but like me being fan of cruise i think since u dislike his acting os much you view him as a monster.


    • Forrest, c’mon, I like Cruise too in movies, most of the time… The Firm had to be written with him in mind… and I loved him in Rain Main.. but the Scientology stuff is real and he wouldn’t be the first successful person whose brain went through the “wash cycle” as Lebeau described :) And I feel sorry for the women who live with him even though they escape with money. It just really comes across that in real life he is driven, focused, and savvy to the point where, I don’t know, he lost some humanity along the way.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I can’t really make out your point here because of the lack of punctuation. But two things. One, Peyton has never been censored in any way save for some comments on the Keanu Reeves article that went overboard. She’s welcome to comment any time she likes. Two, I didn’t say Cruise was evil. I said he is either crazy or evil. I think he’s crazy. But if he’s not, what he is doing is indeed sinister.


  6. he never has any proof other than a doctored video. he tells us to come up with proof, but he never has any himself


  7. first of all he treated kidman well.he still sees kids from nicole marriage. You cant believe everything you hear on news if you do then you are brainwashed by media.


    • Dude you apparently don’t know anything about how Cruise treated Kidman. He cut her off because she was considered a “suppressive person” by Scientology and he turned their kids against her. I am not the brain washed person in this picture. Cruise is. Are you seeing things clearly?


  8. Heres message peyton has Ok, he has no proof other than a video that’s obviously been doctored and that a person who forms an opinion based on a gossip magazine and a fake video obviously doesn’t have a life. that if he’s downright evil, as lebeau says, then directors and producers must be crazy because they keep hiring him, audiences must be crazy because they keep watching his movies, and the academy must be crazy too because they’ve nominated him for three oscars. If cruise was as crazy as hes made out ot be it would interfere with his work as it usual does with crazy people but it dosent


    • In what way do you believe the Scientology video has been edited? There is a longer version. This version is just the segments in which Cruise speaks. The longer version includes Scientology representatives talking about Cruise and his accomplishments for the organization. It’s long and dull and even more evidence of Cruise’s brain washing.

      Wake up. This is real. And if you want to continue coming here and casting disperions on my credibility, you better bring some facts to back up your argument. This has officially gotten tiresome.


  9. Sorry to get offended by this but there are celebrities that do much worse things then tom. Sean penn beat madonna crowe attacked a guy for interrupting his speech . You cant tell those things are better then what cruise does. Why dont we talk about good things he does pay for hit and run victim jamie foxx says he purchased meals for whole crew on collateral .There are alot of actors that are rude to fans and think they are above them but tom has treated them with respect and this what he gets crapped on. Bruce willis is the biggest douch in hollywood barely any directors likes working him trash him.,


    • I didn’t say Tom Cruise was the worst person in Hollywood or that you can’t like him. He’s a human being. I’m sure he’s very complicated. But anyone who is all twisted up with a cult like Scientology is going to be messed in the head.


  10. http://www.usmagazine.com/celebrity-news/news/what-nicole-kidman-has-said-about-tom-cruise-marriage-2012137 this us weekly article kidman dosent have any negative thing to say about cruise its only 3 years old too.


    • Is that seriously your best argument? That Kidman did an interview with US Weekly in which she did not say anything bad abbout her incredibly powerful Hollywood ex who could easily end what’s left of her career if he wanted to?

      That’s weak.

      If we’re going to continue this conversation, move it to the Nicole Kidman article. Any further Tom Cruise related comments posted under the Eddie Murphy article will be deleted. People are complaining about your posts here. Try to stay on topic.


  11. I was thinking about this earlier: Charlie Murphy, Eddie’s brother, voiced the character Jizzy in the game “Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas”. Also, Eddie Murphy’s song, “Party All The Time” is on the “Grand Theft Auto V” soundtrack (played again if as a character you view the film “Meltdown” within the game, and at a theater).
    I don’t know, I just noticed this, with help from a YouTuber named Chasemoney (the Charlie Murphy part).


  12. Eddie murphy has drama called cook directed same guy from dream girls. He also has drama about richard proyar life he plays richards dad i think given eddie last results in drama looks good.


  13. forrestbracket

    Leabu u think eddie upcoming films look like hits. He even has sequel to twins coming out


  14. forrestbracket

    Arnold and eddie confirmed it but they odnt have release date and they seem to have other films to do first. At best it will be pushed back in a while. Or could be canclled. Eddie does have cook and the richard pryor movie so those alone sound good. Eddie is good at drama


  15. forrestbracket

    Music I didnt know hes going back to singing. Havent heard him release any albums again lately. Cook and pryor movie could give him reocngtion as dramatic actor . As you seen from dreamgirls he has range surprised alot of people.


  16. forrestbracket

    No wonder i havent heard it lol. Reggaee is not exactly my kindof music.


  17. “My girl likes to party all the time, party all time, par-ty all the time” -Eddie Murphy, 1985. Love it!


  18. Brian Grazer says he’s working on a “tour de force” Netflix movie starring Eddie Murphy http://t.co/6QxnqWpy2Z


    • Eddie Murphy talks movies, @nbcsnl, and a possible return to standup http://t.co/M7EtIMcYOX


      • I read a Chris Rock interview in Rolling Stone where he said he would like to see Eddie Murphy get back into stand-up, kind of get back into that type of scene. It’s been said about Murphy that it would help him get away from being insulated, being around funny people and not those who don’t challenge him. I think he’s right.


        • It couldn’t hurt, right? I worry that an out-of-touch Murphy who has been isolated for decades would make for a terrible stand-up. That might be why he hasn’t gone back.


        • That’s a really good point; I mean, his last stand-up may likely be when “Raw” was filmed, and being funny in that type of setting takes a certain type of skill. Maybe he’s someone that can rediscover the magic, but it’s said one can stop being funny if their sense of funny lays dormant for too long. I’d like to see him shake off the rust though. Man, I’m beginning to realize how complicated Eddie Murphy’s career has been. I don’t know what he could’ve done differently, or if he’d want to.


        • I contend that the problem is that Murphy lost the eye of the tiger. Maybe Carl Weathers can whip him back into shape.


        • If not him, maybe Apollo’s son. Nevertheless, it is clear that Eddie Murphy is a survivor, rising up to the challenge of our rival.


        • Kidding aside, for Murphy to have a comeback, he has to want it. And I don’t think he has wanted much to so with movies since at least Tower Heist. Maybe even as far back as Dreamgirls.


        • Yeah, maybe he just wants these rumored projects of his off the ground, and if the public digs them, great, if not, he just wants to do them anyway.


        • I’m not even sure he’s all that committed to any of these projects. From interviews I have read, he’s more into his music than acting.


  19. He has drama films coming up cook and richard pryaor bipic. If these are hits it could lead to more drama work


    • Eddie Murphy Is Done Making Movies Just For The Money, According To Eddie Murphy:

      It’s been a while since we’ve seen Eddie Murphy in the spotlight. His last credit was reprising his role of Det. Axel Foley in a 2013 Beverly Hills Cop TV movie that never aired. On the big screen, he last appeared in 2012’s A Thousand Words, a kind of spin on Jim Carrey’s Liar, Liar. He has a number of film roles in the works, including the Twins sequel Triplets, a Richard Pryor film, and Beverly Hills Cop 4. According to a new profile of the funnyman, Murphy himself claims to be done with making movies specifically for the money, which probably explains why we’ve seen so little of him lately.

      His exact phrasing to The Washington Post is,
      The check movies are over for me.

      He seems to be going the opposite direction as Adam Sandler, who said — either joking or not — during the press tour for Blended that he chooses films based on where he wants to travel. So for Murphy, what does he have in the can that he doesn’t consider “check movies”?

      According to the paper’s profile, he wrote three scripts already. One is for a film called Buck Wonder, Super Slave, which spoofs Steve McQueens’ Best Picture-winning 12 Years A Slave, Roots, and superhero movies in general. Then there’s an R-rated film about talking animals (certainly an homage to his Dr. Doolittle days), and another story about two brothers who inherit a black circus.

      A few days ago we heard rumblings about a potential Netflix movie Eddie Murphy was making, though Deadline offered a reality check on the situation and said it isn’t as far along as people think. Still, considering no other details were revealed at the time, could one of these projects Murphy described end up on the streaming service?

      Elsewhere, the actor also mused with The Post about a return to the stage and standup.
      That’s the carrot. Every now and then when I think about it, I think, ‘What would I even talk about onstage?’ It’s never been, ‘I wonder if I’m funny. I wonder if I can come up with jokes.’ It’s more, ‘What would it be like without the leather suit and the anger?’

      While details on Eddie Murphy’s future are still unknown to the public, it certainly seems like he has a plan. At least we can rest easy knowing that we most likely won’t see films like Pluto Nash, Norbit, Meet Dave, and Imagine That from him anytime soon.

      If you have some time for a lengthy read, you should check out the entire profile (at the link above). It goes into further detail on the current state of Murphy, his new outlook, and interesting takes on why he didn’t want to impersonate Bill Cosby on the SNL 40th anniversary special, saying he felt wrong about it.


  20. There was on set pics of him on set of cook and he is confiermed richard proay movie


  21. But there are on set pics of him in cook hes at least confirmed for that drama


  22. Yes true. I hope it does happen I know he would own that role he is good at drama


  23. Eddie Murphy will be honored with the Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize http://bit.ly/1R7sIaN


  24. 10 Actors You Hate Because Of One Movie Role:

    Eddie Murphy – Norbit

    Eddie Murphy’s incendiary, riotous performances in early films like 48 Hrs, Trading Places, Coming to America, and Beverley Hills Cop set his anarchic brand of comedy upon Hollywood. Later, in his stand-up classic, Raw, he donned that famous leather purple suit to deliver a comedy-set for the ages. Now compare that with the picture you see above, that near-iridescent landscape you see of Eddie Murphy, dressed as a woman, in a fat-suit.

    He’d been building towards that for a while (think The Nutty Professor), building towards a feeling of hate among his former fans. Norbit all but sealed said fate, and the role has to go down as one of the most depressing by a former bona fide star in film history.

    It’s an offensive performance (Murphy plays the title role as well as Rasputia [above] and a certain ‘Mr. Wong’, which is as bad as it sounds) for a performer who’s always been offensive. Except in the past he was offensive, as in always on the attack, alive, full of aggression which he channeled into his characters. Unfortunately, Norbit represents the other definition of the word: causing someone to feel resentful, upset, or annoyed.


  25. When David Spade slammed Eddie Murphy in a mid-90’s sketch on SNL, stating over a picture of Eddie “Look children: it’s a falling star. Make a wish”, the moment quickly became infamous. David Spade recently released an autobiography titled “Almost Interesting”, and he discusses in detail that event. His comments are interesting, and honestly revealing.

    Soon after that sketch, a page at NBC told Spade that Murphy left a message, asking to return his call. “I began having an actual, official panic attack” Spade remembered, and he dodged Murphy’s calls for a time, but finally answered. “David Spade, who the fk do you think you are?!!”, Spade remembers. “Honestly? Who. The. Fk. Going after ME??? You dumb motherf**ker! I’m off-limits, don’t you know that? You wouldn’t have a job if it weren’t for me!” Spade says he was crushed after getting called out by Murphy, and since then, has come to see Murphy’s point.

    Spade says that after the incident, Murphy became his “kryptonite”, and he avoided Murphy at any events where they were both in the same room. At one point while attending an after-party for a Rolling Stones concert he spotted Murphy and mutual friend Chris Rock from afar, and Rock mouthed across the room “I can’t talk to you.” According to Spade, it’s only in the past past couple years that the two finally made amends.

    Interesting story from Spade. I can partially see why Murphy felt so personally offended in a way and held such a long grudge, because the truth is Eddie Murphy did save Saturday Night Live at a time where it was a hair away from being cancelled, and maybe he did feel like the show that he saved should not be taking pot shots at him at a low point in his career. From the way Spade describes that conversation, you can almost imagine Murphy’s blood boiling at that point.


    • I can see both sides. SNL definitely owes Murphy and as an SNL castmember, Spade did literally owe Murphy his job. On the other hand, Murphy knows the job. And no one is off limits.

      Should Spade have done the joke? Probably not. Not worth it. Did Murphy over-react? I think so.


      • Comedians cannot afford to be too sensitive, even someone with the statue of Eddie Murphy. That’s like when he was joking on James Brown back in the day, and ol’ James got in his face about it. How would Eddie have felt about that? You gotta roll with the punches.


        • Right. The day SNL starts setting targets as off-limits, they may as well shut down the show. Murphy knows this. He didn’t exactly pull punches when he was on the show. I’m reminded how he refused to do a Bill Cosby bit on the SNL reunion but did it when he accepted the Mark Twain award recently and is apparently developing it as stand-up comedy material for the future. There’s some hypocrisy there I think.


  26. Read This: Eddie Murphy’s Vampire In Brooklyn was a total mess


    When the filmography of Eddie Murphy is held up for consideration, 1995’s Vampire In Brooklyn, directed by horror maestro Wes Craven, stands out as a particularly odd aberration. Not particularly funny, nor dramatic, nor thrilling, it befuddled audiences and critics alike, and is remembered (if at all) as a misfire in the actor’s canon. It’s the kind of movie that makes you think, “Didn’t anyone realize what was happening when this was being made?” (In that sense, it’s a perfect candidate for the How Did This Get Made? podcast.) After all, surely the people involved had a sense that nothing was really working.

    Now, thanks to Hopes&Fears, we’ve got an oral history of the making of Vampire In Brooklyn that confirms exactly what you’d suspect—namely, that this project was doomed almost from the beginning. It’s a deliciously juicy exposé of the clashing ideas and egos at work behind the scenes of the troubled production. An early quote from one of the guys brought in to work on Charlie Murphy’s script sums it up nicely: “Paramount said to us, in our first meeting about Vampire In Brooklyn, ‘We want this movie to be funny. Eddie Murphy does not want to be funny. It’s your job to trick him into being funny.’ Uh, okay. Somehow they thought we’d be able to do this.”

    There’s also a hefty dose of blame to be laid directly at the comic superstar’s feet: “You know the opening scene, where the ship is coming into harbor, and you see the Statue Of Liberty and the World Trade Center? We shot that in Long Beach, California. We lit up the whole deal, smoked it up, and we were ready for Eddie. Then we get a call. ‘Eddie’s still at home.’ You mean in Beverly Hills?” The whole thing is a delight, and a reminder that sometimes, all the money in the world can’t corral the average Hollywood ego.


    • It seems that the crew and Eddie Murphy were not on the same page and had different agendas when it comes to “Vampire in Brooklyn”, and it shows in the finished product. It really suffers from an identity crisis.


  27. Eddie should take it as a compliment that snl mocked him. They don’t just mock anyone .


    • I’m guessing from Eddie’s point of view, he practically kept “SNL” afloat during the so-called “dork age” (i.e. after the last remains of the original “Not Ready for Primetime Players” crew left after the fifth season but before the Dana Carvey-Phil Hartman era and arguably, the second “golden age” of 1986-93). Maybe in part. Eddie felt that if it weren’t mostly for him, David Spade wouldn’t have had a job on “SNL” in the first place, since the show would’ve likely had been long gone already.


  28. Eddie has pissed off a lot of minority groups with his stand up. Comediennes have to have thick skin.


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